Full disclosure: I really enjoyed this movie and it’s difficult for me to criticize it because I love what they did with Mystique (even though she was naked the whole time). That said, from the perspective on an intersectional feminist (ya know, someone who’s concerned with the fates of everyone – not just the white ladies*) the movie was an appalling example of diversity, which as many have pointed out, is ironic given that diversity has always been the underlying metaphor of the X-men.
As a metaphor, Days of Future Past falls flat while other X-men movies have succeeded. X-Men: First Class did a fantastic job drawing parallels between the X-Men of the movie and the Civil Rights movement, while the original trilogy managed to lightly tread using the diversity metaphor to speak about the LGBT equality struggle. While I’ve attempted to purge X-Men: The Last Stand from my memory, at least the movie had some interesting ideological considerings re: X-Men and diversity struggles.
What helped both the previous franchise and X-Men: First Class succeed was the diversity of their cast. It’s hard to use an ensemble cast as a metaphor for diversity without having a diverse cast. Go figure! With a focus on Rogue, and the ever-welcome presence of Storm (Halle Berry) the initial trilogy had enough “diverse” characters (Two white women and one black woman + Mystique) to scrape by without too many criticisms regarding the choice of characters used. As the start of a new X-Men movieverse, First Class gave us the most diverse cast of X-Men seen on a big screen, which I took at the time as a hopeful sign for the future.
Welp. I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but a lady’s always got to have hope for something better. As you probably know by now, Days of Future Past follows Wolverine as he goes back in time to save the X-Men’s future with the help of Professor X, Magneto, Quicksilver, and Beast (who doesn’t look too Beastly). So the fate of the X-Men – a team known for their diversity and acceptance – is in the hands of five white dudes. Nothing can go wrong there!
And nothing does go wrong (mostly) as they team eventually ruin saves the day, leaving Wolverine to return to a much friendlier future. Friendlier here is defined by a) a lack of killer robots b) the presence of Wolvie’s friends and love-interest c) a f*** ton of white people.
We go from one future which featured an incredibly diverse team of Storm, Blink, Warpath, Bishop, and Colossus (hey, he’s Russian) to a white-washed future, sans-sentinels, at the Xavier School. As much as I enjoyed seeing the reappearance of old character favorites, the movie made me question what kind of future the X-Men should be fighting for.
“Sadly, this human rights parable has been rewritten so that only white, male heroes have any impact on the struggle for personal freedom. Women are outnumbered by five to one and almost always relegated to supporting roles, characters of color are introduced as superpowered plot devices with no personal development or backstory, and LGBT people are only represented through metaphor and subtex”
I’m a huge fan of metaphors (English major/nerd) but they’re just not enough for representation.
So here’s a list of simple things Days of Future Past could have done to improve it’s diversity quotient in a meaningful way.
1.) Include Scarlet Witch
I loved Quicksilver’s role in the movie (the audience applauded after his slow-mo fight scene), but it made me miss his twin sister, Scarlett Witch. She can control probability with her flashy hexes, and it would have been a great opportunity to see her outside of her flashy red costume (although they could have kept it in the movie to allude to her relationship with Magneto. He’s her dad).
Her absence in the movie is very notable to X-Men fans, the the presence of a younger girl on Quicksilver’s lap towards the end of the movie complicates matters incessantly. If the child is supposed to be Wanda, Quicksilver’s full sister, then the movie is messing with the well-established story that they’re twins.
Conversely, the little girl in Quicksilver’s lap could actually be his half-sister Polaris (who inherits a closer power-set to Magneto) and Wanda could be wreaking havoc in her own way off camera. If Wanda is the little girl, then that’s dumb. Way to set her up as a weak princess type. If Polaris is the little girl, I really want to know what Wanda was up to off-screen.
While she is a white lady, the movie desperately needed an infusion of anyone that wasn’t a white dude. Plus, cheeky teenage Wanda would have been equally as fun (and funny) as cheeky teenage Quicksilver. Think of the brief comedic moment when they tease each other with their powers!
2.) Send Kitty Pryde back in time
The original story that Days of Future Past is based on actually had Kitty Pryde going back in time rather than Wolverine. I feel like if they were going to make *that* big of a change, it would have been just as easy to write Kitty Pryde AND Wolverine going back in time, or Kitty Pryde seeking out Wolverine’s help in the past.
The only time ‘s we get to see Kitty Pryde are when she’s running away with Bishop, repeatedly dying, and sending people through time. Despite the fact that it’s her leadership and mind that is the reason her band has survived the sentinels for so long, Kitty is still primarily seen as a support character and a shield in her brief scenes.
While Kitty Pryde is a difficult character due to her utility powerset, ending Kitty Pryde into the past could have given the franchise another desperately needed female lead, and this would have given Kitty Pryde a chance to show her stuff in a non-support role.
3.) Choosing different mutants to show-case in the past
I love the cute young Hank McCoy. He’s adorable, unsure of himself, and nerdy cute. I want to give him hugs and cuddles all day long. I also think that he could have been replaced with a different mutant. Did Beast really need to be present in Days of Future Past? Probably not. He played a support role and was mainly present as a helper to Charles – almost any other character in the X-Men universe could have been chosen to play as Charles’s nurse.
Another point int he movie where there was a chance to show some diversity is when Mystique liberates her fellow mutants from their army posts. Whiel we get to see Havoc, Ink, Spyke, and Toad this was a golden opportunity to show some diversity for diversity’s sake. The scene isn’t very long, and we dont’ hear from those mutants again, but it’s a nice scene to show cameos of mutants of color and/or lady mutants.
If the movie had done one or all of my suggestions, there would be much less to criticize (although to be fair, I’d still criticize it) and we’d all get to see some fresh, amazing faces. Considering how white and male the movie is, it really wouldn’t have taken much for Days of Future Past to take it to the next level with cast diversity.
*This is a gross reduction of intersectional feminism. To learn more check out Geek Feminism Wiki’s handy guide.